“I’m sorry, Jake. I wish I had better news.”
Dr. Lionel Smuyth had been Jacob’s orthopedic surgeon since he fixed Jacob’s knee in high school. Jacob asked him to come to review his situation and help him determine options.
“Your entire shoulder girdle is held together with more metal than bone. Your shoulder blade is … Well, time will tell.”
“What does that mean, Lionel?” Jacob asked.
“Long term?” Dr. Smuyth went back to the X-rays. He held up X-ray after X-ray then reviewed the MRIs. “I’d replace the head of your humerus. When your bone fills in, you’ll need surgery to reattach all of these tendons. The surgery notes say they found all the tendons and tucked them away. They may be available when you’re ready.”
“How long before I can work?”
Dr. Smuyth’s eyebrows shot up at Jacob’s question. His eyes were kind, but Jacob’s stomach dropped when Dr. Smuyth’s usual bright smile fell. The doctor picked up Jacob’s right hand.
“Tell me what you feel,” Dr. Smuyth said.
He ran a capped ballpoint pen over Jacob’s hand.
“I can feel that,” Jacob said.
Dr. Smuyth shook his head.
“You have sensation, Jacob. And that’s really a miracle.”
“You’ve never sugar-coated anything for me, Lionel,” Jacob said. “What is going on?”
“You’re having a neck fusion tomorrow.”
“I don’t feel confident in the innervation in your arm,” Dr. Smuyth said. “I won’t say ‘never,’ but you have a long way to go before you’ll swing a hammer with that arm.”
“I’m not going to give you a doctor hex, Jake. Don’t ask me for dates, times, and exactly what will happen. We have to take this one step at a time. You have two broken transverse processes in your neck. Two!” Dr. Smuyth shook his head like he couldn’t believe the question or conversation. “Tomorrow your neck will be fused. If everything goes well and by some miracle you take it easy, you should be able to go home on Monday or Tuesday. Then it will be six weeks, at least, before your neck heals. Your bone may have filled in enough that we can replace the head of your humerus and reattach your ligaments. Then, maybe, you’ll be able to start rebuilding strength in that arm. But …”
“That’s six months from now?”
“At least. Every step depends on the success of the last step. Any infection, slow healing, bad guesses, not to mention surgeon foul-up …” Dr. Smuyth returned to look at the X-rays. “This is a vicious injury, Jake. You’re lucky to be alive.”
“I’m not ungrateful, Lionel. I know how lucky I am.”
Jacob closed his eyes for a moment, trying to formulate the thought or question in his mind.
“You’re saying that these injuries … just like that … I’m not going to be normal again.”
“Yes, I’m sorry,” Dr. Smuyth said. “I’d tell you that you still have use of your left arm. You’re still very young. I can also tell you to never say never. I’ve seen amazing things happen with hard work and a positive attitude. But you know all of that.”
The rest of Dr. Smuyth’s visit was lost on Jacob. From the moment the doctor said, “you know all of that,” Jacob worked to get through it.
The retelling of Denver Cereal, Volume 1, continues tomorrow…
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